1908 Democratic Party Platform
We, the representatives of the Democracy of the United States, in National Convention assembled, reaffirm our belief in, and pledge our loyalty to, the principles of the party.
We rejoice at the increasing signs of an awakening throughout the country. The various investigations have traced graft and political corruption to the representatives of the predatory wealth, and laid bare the unscrupulous methods by which they have debauched elections and preyed upon a defenseless public through the subservient officials whom they have raised to place and power.
The conscience of the nation is now aroused to free the Government from the grip of those who have made it a business asset of the favor-seeking corporations. It must become again a people's government, and be administered in all its departments according to the Jeffersonian maxim, "equal rights to all; special privileges to none."
"Shall the people rule?" is the overshadowing issue which manifests itself in all the questions now under discussion.
Increase of Office Holders
Coincident with the enormous increase in expenditures is a like addition to the number of office-holders. During the past year 23,784 were added, costing $16,156,000, and in the past six years of Republican administration the total number of new offices created, aside from many commissions, has been 99,319, entailing an additional expenditure of nearly $70,000,000 as against only 10,279 new offices created under the Cleveland and McKinley administrations, which involved an expenditure of only $6,000,000. We denounce this great and growing increase in the number of office-holders as not only unnecessary and wasteful, but also as clearly indicating a deliberate purpose on the part of the Administration to keep the Republican party in power at public expense by thus increasing the number of its retainers and dependents. Such procedure we declare to be no less dangerous and corrupt than the open purchase of votes at the polls.
Economy in Administration
The Republican Congress in the session just ended made appropriations amounting to $1,008,000,000, exceeding the total expenditures of the past fiscal year by $90,000,000 and leaving a deficit of more than $60,000,000 for the fiscal year just ended. We denounce the heedless waste of the people's money which has resulted in this appalling increase as a shameful violation of all prudent considerations of government and as no less than a crime against the millions of working men and women, from whose earnings the great proportion of these colossal sums must be extorted through excessive tariff exactions and other indirect methods. It is not surprising that in the face of this shocking record the Republican platform contains no reference to economical administration or promise thereof in the future. We demand that a stop be put to this frightful extravagance, and insist upon the strictest economy in every department compatible with frugal and efficient administration
Arbitrary Power—the Speaker
The House of Representatives was designed by the fathers of the Constitution to be the popular branch of our Government, responsive to the public will.
The House of Representatives, as controlled in recent years by the Republican party, has ceased to be a deliberative and legislative body, responsive to the will of a majority of its members, but has come under the absolute domination of the Speaker, who has entire control of its deliberations and powers of legislation.
We have observed with amazement the popular branch of our Federal Government helpless to obtain either the consideration or enactment of measures desired by a majority of its members.
Legislative control becomes a failure when one member in the person of the Speaker is more powerful than the entire body.
We demand that the House of Representatives shall again become a deliberative body, controlled by a majority of the people's representatives, and not by the Speaker; and we pledge ourselves to adopt such rules and regulations to govern the House of Representatives as will enable a majority of its members to direct its deliberations and control legislation.
Misuse of Patronage
We condemn as a violation of the spirit of our institutions the action of the present Chief Executive in using the patronage of his high office to secure the nomination for the Presidency of one of his Cabinet of officers. A forced succession to the Presidency is scarcely less repugnant to public sentiment than is life tenure in that office. No good intention on the part of the Executive, and no virtue in the one selected, can justify the establishment of a dynasty. The right of the people freely to select their officials is inalienable and cannot be delegated.
Publicity of Campaign Contributions
We demand Federal legislation forever terminating the partnership which has existed between corporations of the country and the Republican party under the expressed or implied agreement that in return for the contribution of great sums of money wherewith to purchase elections, they should be allowed to continue substantially unmolested in their efforts to encroach upon the rights of the people.
Any reasonable doubt as to the existence of this relation has been forever dispelled by the sworn testimony of witnesses examined in the insurance investigation in New York, and the open admission of a single individual—unchallenged by the Republican National Committee—that he himself at the personal request of the Republican candidate for the Presidency raised over a quarter of a million dollars to be used in a single State during the closing hours of the last campaign. In order that this practice shall be stopped for all time, we demand the passage of a statute punishing by imprisonment any officer of a corporation who shall either contribute on behalf of, or consent to the contribution by, a corporation, of any money or thing of value to be used in furthering the election of a President or Vice-President of the United States or of any member of the Congress thereof.
We denounce the Republican party, having complete control of the Federal Government for their failure to pass the bill, introduced in the last Congress, to compel the publication of the names of contributors and the amounts contributed toward campaign funds, and point to the evidence of their insincerity when they sought by an absolutely irrelevant and impossible amendment to defeat the passage of the bill. As a further evidence of their intention to conduct their campaign in the coming contest with vast sums of money wrested from favor-seeking corporations, we call attention to the fact that the recent Republican National Convention at Chicago refused, when the issue was presented to it, to declare against such practices.
We pledge the Democratic party to the enactment of a law prohibiting any corporation from contributing to a campaign fund and any individual from contributing an amount above a reasonable maximum, and providing for the publication before election of all such contributions.
The Rights of the States
Believing, with Jefferson, in "the support of the State governments in all their rights as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies," and in "the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad," we are opposed to the centralization implied in the suggestion, now frequently made, that the powers of the General Government should be extended by judicial construction. There is no twilight zone between the Nation and the State in which exploiting interests can take refuge from both; and it is as necessary that the Federal Government shall exercise the powers delegated to it as it is that the State governments shall use the authority reserved to them; but we insist that Federal remedies for the regulation of interstate commerce and for the prevention of private monopoly shall be added to, not substituted for, State remedies.
We welcome the belated promise of tariff reform now offered by the Republican party in tardy recognition of the righteousness of the Democratic position on this question; but the people cannot safely entrust the execution of this important work to a party which is so deeply obligated to the highly protected interests as is the Republican party. We call attention to the significant fact that the promised relief is postponed until after the coming election—an election to succeed in which the Republican party must have that same support from the beneficiaries of the high protective tariff as it has always heretofore received from them; and to the further fact that during years of uninterrupted power no action whatever has been taken by the Republican Congress to correct the admittedly existing tariff iniquities.
We favor immediate revision of the tariff by the reduction of import duties. Articles entering into competition with trust-controlled products should be placed upon the free list, and material reductions should be made in the tariff upon the necessaries of life, especially upon articles competing with such American manufactures as are sold abroad more cheaply than at home; and gradual reductions should be made in such other schedules as may be necessary to restore the tariff to a revenue basis.
Existing duties have given to the manufacturers of paper a shelter behind which they have organized combinations to raise the price of pulp and of paper, thus imposing a tax upon the spread of knowledge. We demand the immediate repeal of the tariff on wood pulp, print paper, lumber, timber and logs, and that these articles be placed upon the free list.
A private monopoly is indefensible and intolerable. We therefore favor the vigorous enforcement of the criminal law against guilty trust magnates and officials, and demand the enactment of such additional legislation as may be necessary to make it impossible for a private monopoly to exist in the United States. Among the additional remedies we specify three: First, a law preventing a duplication of directors among competing corporations; second, a license system which will, without abridging the right of each State to create corporations, or its right to regulate as it will foreign corporations doing business within its limits, make it necessary for a manufacturing or trading corporation engaged in interstate commerce to take out a Federal license before it shall be permitted to control as much as twenty-five per cent of the product in which it deals, the license to protect the public from watered stock and to prohibit the control by such corporation of more than fifty per cent of the total amount of any product consumed in the United States; and, third, a law compelling such licensed corporations to sell to all purchasers in all parts of the country on the same terms, after making due allowance for cost of transportation.
We assert the right of Congress to exercise complete control over interstate commerce and the right of each State to exercise like control over commerce within its borders.
We demand such enlargement of the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission as may be necessary to enable it to compel railroads to perform their duties as common carriers and prevent discrimination and extortion.
We favor the efficient supervision and rate regulation of railroads engaged in interstate com- merce. To this end we recommend the valuation of railroads by the Interstate Commerce Commission, such valuation to take into consideration the physical value of the property, the original cost of production and all elements of value that will render the valuation fair and just.
We favor such legislation as will prohibit the railroads from engaging in business which brings them into competition with their shippers; also legislation which will assure such reduction in transportation rates as conditions will permit, care being taken to avoid reduction that would compel a reduction of wages, prevent adequate service, or do injustice to legitimate investments.
We heartily approve the laws prohibiting the pass and the rebate, and we favor any further necessary legislation to restrain, correct and prevent such abuses.
We favor such legislation as will increase the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission, giving to it the initiative with reference to rates and transportation charges put into effect by the railroad companies, and permitting the Interstate Commerce Commission, on its own initiative, to declare a rate illegal and as being more than should be charged for such service. The present law relating thereto is inadequate, by reason of the fact that the Interstate Commerce Commission is without power to fix or investigate a rate until complaint has been made to it by the shipper.
We further declare in favor of a law providing that all agreements of traffic or other associations of railway agents affecting interstate rates, service or classification, shall be unlawful, unless filed with and approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission .
We favor the enactment of a law giving to the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to inspect proposed railroad tariff rates or schedules before they shall take effect, and, if they be found to be unreasonable, to initiate an adjustment thereof.
The panic of 1907, coming without any legitimate excuse, when the Republican party had for a decade been in complete control of the Federal government, furnishes additional proof that it is either unwilling or incompetent to protect the interests of the general public. It has so linked the country to Wall street that the sins of the speculators are visited upon the whole people. While refusing to rescue the wealth producers from spoliation at the hands of the stock gamblers and speculators in farm products, it has deposited Treasury funds, without interest and without competition, in favorite banks. It has used an emergency for which it is largely responsible to force through Congress a bill changing the basis of bank currency and inviting market manipulation, and has failed to give to the 15,000,000 depositors of the country protection in their savings.
We believe that in so far as the needs of commerce require an emergency currency, such currency should be issued and controlled by the Federal Government, and loaned on adequate security to National and State banks. We pledge ourselves to legislation under which the national banks shall be required to establish a guarantee fund for the prompt payment of the depositors of any insolvent national bank, under an equitable system which shall be available to all State banking institutions wishing to use it.
We favor a postal savings bank if the guaranteed bank can not be secured, and that it be constituted so as to keep the deposited money in the communities where it is established. But we condemn the policy of the Republican party in providing postal savings banks under a plan of conduct by which they will aggregate the deposits of the rural communities and redeposit the same while under Government charge in the banks of Wall street, thus depleting the circulating medium of the producing regions and unjustly favoring the speculative markets.
We favor an income tax as part of our revenue system, and we urge the submission of a constitutional amendment specifically authorizing Congress to levy and collect a tax upon individual and corporate incomes, to the end that wealth may bear its proportionate share of the burdens of the Federal Government.
Labor and Injunctions
The courts of justice are the bulwark of our liberties, and we yield to none in our purpose to maintain their dignity. Our party has given to the bench a long line of distinguished judges, who have added to the respect and confidence in which this department must be jealously maintained. We resent the attempt of the Republican party to raise a false issue respecting the judiciary. It is an unjust reflection upon a great body of our citizens to assume that they lack respect for the courts.
It is the function of the courts to interpret the laws which the people create, and if the laws appear to work economic, social or political injustice, it is our duty to change them. The only basis upon which the integrity of our courts can stand is that of unswerving justice and protection of life, personal liberty and property. If judicial processes may be abused, we should guard them against abuse.
Experience has proved the necessity of a modification of the present law relating to injunctions, and we reiterate the pledge of our national platforms of 1896 and 1904 in favor of the measure which passed the United States Senate in 1896, but which a Republican Congress has ever since refused to enact, relating to contempts in Federal courts and providing for trial by jury in cases of indirect contempt.
Questions of judicial practice have arisen especially in connection with industrial disputes. We deem that the parties to all judicial proceedings should be treated with rigid impartiality, and that injunctions should not be issued in any cases in which injunctions would not issue if no industrial dispute were involved.
The expanding organization of industry makes it essential that there should be no abridgement of the right of wage earners and producers to organize for the protection of wages and the improvement of labor conditions, to the end that such labor organizations and their members should not be regarded as illegal combinations in restraint of trade.
We favor the eight hour day on all Government work.
We pledge the Democratic party to the enactment of a law by Congress, as far as the Federal jurisdiction extends, for a general employer's liability act covering injury to body or loss of life of employes.
We pledge the Democratic party to the enactment of a law creating a Department of Labor, represented separately in the President's Cabinet, in which Department shall be included the subject of mines and mining.
We believe in the upbuilding of the American merchant marine without new or additional burdens upon the people and without bounties from the public treasury.
The constitutional provision that a navy shall be provided and maintained means an adequate navy, and we believe that the interests of this country would be best served by having a navy sufficient to defend the coasts of this country and protect American citizens wherever their rights may be in jeopardy.
Protection of American Citizens
We pledge ourselves to insist upon the just and lawful protection of our citizens at home and abroad, and to use all proper methods to secure for them, whether native born or naturalized, and without distinction of race or creed, the equal protection of the law and the enjoyment of all rights and privileges open to them under our treaties; and if, under existing treaties, the right of travel and sojourn is denied to American citizens, or recognition is withheld from American passports by any countries on the ground of race or creed, we favor prompt negotiations with the governments of such countries to secure the removal of these unjust discriminations.
We demand that all over the world a duly authenticated passport issued by the Government of the United States to an American citizen, shall be proof of the fact that he is an American citizen and shall entitle him to the treatment due him as such.
The laws pertaining to the civil service should be honestly and rigidly enforced, to the end that merit and ability shall be the standard of appointment and promotion rather than services rendered to a political party.
We favor a generous pension policy, both as a matter of justice to the surviving veterans and their dependents, and because it tends to relieve the country of the necessity of maintaining a large standing army.
We advocate the organization of all existing national public health agencies into a national bureau of public health with such power over sanitary conditions connected with factories, mines, tenements, child labor and other such subjects as are properly within the jurisdiction of the Federal government and do not interfere with the power of the States controlling public health agencies.
Agricultural and Mechanical Education
The Democratic party favors the extension of agricultural, mechanical and industrial education. We therefore favor the establishment of district agricultural experiment stations and secondary agricultural and mechanical colleges in the several States.
Popular Election of Senators
We favor the election of United States Senators by direct vote of the people, and regard this reform as the gateway to other national reforms.
We welcome Oklahoma to the sisterhood of States and heartily congratulate her upon the auspicious beginning of a great career.
We believe that the Panama Canal will prove of great value to our country, and favor its speedy completion.
Arizona and New Mexico
The National Democratic party has for the last sixteen years labored for the admission of Arizona and New Mexico as separate States of the Federal Union, and recognizing that each possesses every qualification successfully to maintain separate State governments, we favor the immediate admission of these Territories as separate States.
The establishment of rules and regulations, if any such are necessary, in relation to free grazing upon the public lands outside of forest or other reservations, until the same shall eventually be disposed of, should be left to the people of the States respectively in which such lands may be situated.
Water furnishes the cheaper means of transportation, and the National Government, having the control of navigable waters, should improve them to their fullest capacity. We earnestly favor the immediate adoption of a liberal and comprehensive plan for improving every water course in the Union which is justified by the needs of commerce; and, to secure that end, we favor, when practicable, the connection of the Great Lakes with the navigable rivers and with the Gulf through the Mississippi River, and the navigable rivers with each other, and the rivers, bays and sounds of our coasts with each other, by artificial canals, with a view of perfecting a system of inland waterways to be navigated by vessels of standard draught.
We favor the co-ordination of the various services of the Government connected with waterways in one service, for the purpose of aiding in the completion of such a system of inland waterways; and we favor the creation of a fund ample for continuous work, which shall be conducted under the direction of a commission of experts to be authorized by law.
We favor Federal aid to State and local authorities in the construction and maintenance of post roads.
Telegraph and Telephone
We pledge the Democratic party to the enactment of a law to regulate, under the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the rates and services of telegraph and telephone companies engaged in the transmission of messages between the States.
We repeat the demand for internal development and for the conservation of our natural resources contained in previous platforms, the enforcement of which Mr. Roosevelt has vainly sought from a reluctant party; and to that end we insist upon the preservation, protection and replacement of needed forests, the preservation of the public domain for home seekers, the protection of the national resources in timber, coal, iron and oil against monopolistic control, the development of our waterways for navigation and every other useful purpose, including the irrigation of arid lands, the reclamation of swamp lands, the clarification of streams, the development of water power, and the preservation of electric power, generated by this natural force, from the control of monopoly; and to such end we urge the exercise of all powers, national, State and municipal, both separately and in co-operation.
We insist upon a policy of administration of our forest reserves which shall relieve it of the abuses which have arisen thereunder, and which shall, as far as practicable, conform to the police regulations of the several States wherein the reserves are located, which shall enable homesteaders as of right to occupy and acquire title to all portions thereof which are especially adapted to agriculture, and which shall furnish a system of timber sales available as well to the private citizen as to the larger manufacturer and consumer.
We favor the application of the principles of the land laws of the United States to our newly acquired territory, Hawaii, to the end that the public lands of that territory may be held and utilized for the benefit of bona-fide homesteaders.
We condemn the experiment in imperialism as an inexcusable blunder which has involved us in enormous expense, brought us weakness instead of strength, and laid our nation open to the charge of abandoning a fundamental doctrine of self-government. We favor an immediate declaration of the nation's purpose to recognize the independence of the Philippine Islands as soon as a stable government can be established, such independence to be guaranteed by us as we guarantee the independence of Cuba, until the neutralization of the islands can be secured by treaty with other powers. In recognizing the independence of the Philippines our Government should retain such land as may be necessary for coaling stations and naval bases.
Alaska and Porto Rico
We demand for the people of Alaska and Porto Rico the full enjoyment of the rights and privileges of a territorial form of government, and that the officials appointed to administer the government of all our territories and the District of Columbia should be thoroughly qualified by previous bona-fide residence.
The Democratic party recognizes the importance and advantage of developing closer ties of Pan-American friendship and commerce between the United States and her sister nations of Latin America, and favors the taking of such steps, consistent with Democratic policies, for better acquaintance, greater mutual confidence, and larger exchange of trade as will bring lasting benefit not only to the United States, but to this group of American Republics, having constitutions, forms of government, ambitions and interests akin to our own.
We favor full protection, by both National and State governments within their respective spheres, of all foreigners residing in the United States under treaty, but we are opposed to the admission of Asiatic immigrants who can not be amalgamated with our population, or whose presence among us would raise a race issue and involve us in diplomatic controversies with Oriental powers.
We believe that where an American citizen holding a patent in a foreign country is compelled to manufacture under his patent within a certain time, similar restrictions should be applied in this country to the citizens or subjects of such a country.
The Democratic party stands for Democracy; the Republican party has drawn to itself all that is aristocratic and plutocratic.
The Democratic party is the champion of equal rights and opportunities to all; the Republican party is the party of privilege and private monopoly. The Democratic party listens to the voice of the whole people and gauges progress by the prosperity and advancement of the average man; the Republican party is subservient to the comparatively few who are the beneficiaries of governmental favoritism. We invite the co-operation of all, regardless of previous political affiliation or past differences, who desire to preserve a government of the people, by the people and for the people and who favor such an administration of the government as will insure, as far as human wisdom can, that each citizen shall draw from society a reward commensurate with his contribution to the welfare of society.
APP Note: The American Presidency Project used the first day of the national nominating convention as the "date" of this platform since the original document is undated.
Democratic Party Platforms, 1908 Democratic Party Platform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273198